Day 9 / Thursday, May 3


It was another absolutely beautiful morning in New Orleans. Brilliant sunshine was punctuated by large white, puffy clouds. However, it was another hot one. The temperature was 79 when we left the Satybridge this morning, and it got up to 85. Even when we were out late this evening it was still 75. Some humidity was present, but it wasn't bad, and a slight breeze tried to keep things tolerable. 

Thursday is what they call "locals day" at Jazz Fest. Louisiana residents get in for a bit of a discount, and they make up a good number of the attendees. All said, though, the day is not as crowded as the weekend days, and it has a much more relaxed feel to it. It also means that getting to the Fair Grounds on the shuttle bus is quick and easy. They seem to be opening the grounds much earlier his year, and every day we have been able to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere well before the music starts. 

Oddly, today's brunch was an exact repeat of Thursday's brunch from last year (Day 8). I had the Cajun duck and shrimp pasta served by Crescent Catering out of Slidell, Louisiana. I had this on Day 9 in 2015 and Day 8 in 2016 as well, and I also enjoyed their Cajun duck po' boy on Day 3 in 2013. The pasta (radiatori) with the brown sauce and the abundant duck and shrimp make for a great dish. And don't ever forget the hot sauce!

Laurie had the vegetarian red beans and rice from Crescent Catering's Jazz Fest neighbor, Burks and Douglas. She has had this dish four times before, on the aforementioned Day 8 last year, on Day 8 in 2016, Day 9 in 2015, and Day 8 in 2014, where you can read about Judy Burks and Morris Douglas, who have been serving this near perfect dish at Jazz Fest for more than 40 years. Laurie has also had their blackberry cobbler, on Day 2 in 2013.

One look at today's cubes and you'll know where we started the day. Any regular reader of this blog could make a pretty good guess even without the cubes. The Fais Do Do stage is pretty much the go-to spot to get things going. It's always good to connect with the roots before seeing what's higher up in the tree as it were.

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Today Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys were on first. Goldman, 85, goes way back to the roots of today's zydeco music, that being Creole la-la. He plays it exactly the way it's been played on front porches, in living rooms with the carpet rolled up, and at southwest Louisiana dance halls for decades. 

La-la is the sort of sound that Jazz Fest has long maintained as its musical heart, but every year there are fewer of the old guys who can or still do play Louisiana music the old way. Some have tried to change with the times, some have passed away. Goldman hasn't changed. That's why I've seen Goldman and the Lawtell Playboys on Day 10 in 2013, Day 3 in 2015, Day 2 in 2016, and Day 10 last year. I'll be there next year, too!

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The band is made up of the awesome 'Zydeco Joe' Citizen on the scrubboard, Courtney Jeffries on guitar, Lee Tedrow on bass, and Barry Cormier on drums. Today, as the music started I had to look twice, and even a third time to verify that it was in fact the great Louis Michot of the Lost Bayou Ramblers playing fiddle. I'd love to know how that connection was made, the old-school Goldman and the very modern Michot. However it came about, they made wonderful music together, and both seemed to be enjoying it a lot. 

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In this band, I just love to watch Zydeco Joe as he roams around the stage interacting with the others in the band during the tunes. It really adds to the fun. 

On the second Tuesday of every month you can find Joe at the Opelousas City Hall. He is on the front row, second seat, attending the monthly meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen. True to his name, he is a citizen that is concerned with the goings on in the city of Opelousas, his hometown. And he is not just a visitor to the meetings, he voices his concerns over many of the problems that face Opelousas. One of the problems that he brought up was the ownership of horses in the city limits. He kept bringing it up at meeting after meeting until the law was changed to benefit both the horse and horse owner.

Joe was a concrete finisher during his 60-plus years with the Louisiana branch of the AFL CIO, a union he is still a member of and serves as the vice-president of retirees. His work can still be seen in some of the local buildings, including the original portion of the Opelousas General Hospital and the Lafayette Medical Center. He also worked on the railroad for several years.

Joe's father taught him to play music back in the 1940's. His instrument of choice back then was the harmonica, and he played with many well known groups of the day. The Lonesome Sundown Band was one of his favorites. He eventually put up the harmonica and started playing the scrubboard. He's played with just about all of the popular zydeco bands, but has found a home as a member of the Lawtell Playboys. 

Here's my video of Goldman, Joe, Louis Michot and the others from this morning's performance at the Fais Do Do stage. As always, a perfect way to start the day.

Goldman for Blog

After this we were going to split up for a bit. Laurie was going to head to Congo Square while I was going to the Jazz Tent. That's the way we do it at Jazz Fest these days. We're too comfortable not too, and our while our tastes are similar, in that there's almost nothing she likes that I don't and vice versa, there are some things that we prioritize higher I guess. 

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Before we split, we spent a couple of minutes at the Jazz and Heritage stage listening to the Real Untouchable Brass Band. Here's a little bit of that scene this morning, and as you can see, and as we always say, if the pork chop is there, you know it's got to be good! It's a great performance space. If you can't start the day at Fais Do Do, Jazz and Heritage is the next best thing!

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Laurie was off to see some reggae at Congo Square with the Higher Heights band from New Orleans. With its strong Caribbean roots, it's no surprise that New Orleans has quite a few really good reggae bands. Higher Heights has been around for quite some time and presents an energetic and uplifting show. The band has a strong stage presence and has supported some of the hottest names in reggae music, including Yellowman and Third World

When asked to describe themselves, Higher Heights says they are a mountain. They will continuously climb reggae music to higher heights, and will not be removed from its firm foundation. Here is some reggae from Higher Heights, which on a sunny morning at Congo Square probably felt really nice.

Higher Heights

Laurie then headed to the Acura stage, checking out the vendors in the craft market near the Congo Square stage on the way. She spent a while talking to a very friendly guy who makes art out of banana leaves, elephant grass, and corn husks. Jazz Fest has three craft areas with lots of working craftspeople, and the Louisiana Folklife area has the Native American dancers and this year added a circus arts section. Laurie takes much more advantage of these things than me, who is obsessed with the music. Neither of us have ever seen any of the exhibits in the Grandstand, and we should.

Laurie was at the Acura stage to see the Stooges Brass Band. These guys present a raucous brass band show or the near hip hop variety. We saw them on Day 2 way back in 2012 on the Congo Square stage, and we ended our Jazz Fest with them at the Jazz and Heritage stage on Day 11 in 2015 (that's where you can get the background on them, and the story of how I got to spend a couple minutes with them at the Wolf Trap Swamp Romp in 2014). Laurie also saw them at Congo Square last year on Day 11, where you can see a lot of video of them.


Walter Ramsey, leader of the Stooges Brass Band, was a little puzzled when he started to introduce the song Where You From? by asking the crowd to identify where they were from. There was not a lot of noise when he asked where the New Orleanians that live Uptown, Downtown, and the West Bank were. He got a loud response when he asked for the out-of-towners. Many of the people who identified themselves as locals were students who were at Jazz Fest with their school choirs, bands, and field-trip groups.

The Stooges themselves started out that way more than 20 years ago, playing their way through the Fair Grounds infield in the one of the many parades that wind through Jazz Fest. But today they were on the big Acura Stage.

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For much of the gig, the Stooges' hype man for the afternoon, Darryl Young, a.k.a. Dancing Man 504, spun, jumped, and stepped for the audience while the band played behind him. Occasionally, Ramsey walked down the catwalk installed for Saturday's Aerosmith show.

The Stooges have followed the local-band trajectory, moving from the smaller Jazz and Heritage stage to Congo Square to Acura Stage, which they first played last year, starting at 11:25 a.m., the first time slot of the day. Band members remember friends and family running from the gate to make it to the start of their show.

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This year, the band had the 12:35 p.m. time slot -- still moving up, said Ramsey, as he talked about the band he started 22 years ago with trumpeter Andrew Baham. The two, now 37, were sophomores at John F. Kennedy High School who went on to graduate from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts in 1998. To start the Stooges, they recruited classmates along with friends from St. Augustine High School.

Ramsey had long attended second-line parades with his mother, Demetrie Ramsey, or his dad, Walter Taylor, a member of the Scene Boosters Social Aid and Pleasure Club. His maternal grandfather, cultural historian Ashton Ramsey, knew all the Mardi Gras Indians and band members in downtown New Orleans. So when the Stooges started rehearsing at his grandfather's house, musical guests like Rebirth Brass Band drummer Derrick Tabb would stop by to check on them.

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"I always looked at Walter as a little cousin or a nephew," said Tabb as he accompanied his young Roots of Music band around the Fair Grounds on Thursday. (A very worthwhile organization by the way.) "So I remember when the Stooges started. They had a totally different sound."

In those early days, they blended traditional brass-band music with the clean, rehearsed tones of the Kennedy and St. Aug marching bands, said Tabb, who has watched as the band improvised, played countless second-line parades and created its own full brass-band sound. Though Baham no longer plays with the Stooges, most of today's front line -- Ramsey on flugelhorn, Virgil Tiller on sax, and Growe on slide trombone -- was made up of bandmates who have spent more than half their lives playing with the Stooges.

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Each member of that front line also has five children. "We're old," said Ramsey. "We're grown. So we've multiplied. We're all dads now."

The Stooges tour heavily, even around the globe. But Ramsey and Baham spend a lot of time in the studio they run on Tulane Avenue, which they're making into a music hub of sorts. Baham and Ramsey create much of the background music for ESPN and other networks and have other major production projects.

Though the Stooges were once the go-to band for Sunday social aid and pleasure club parades, they now refer those gigs to the Big 6, a younger brass band who came up under the Stooges. "After a while we just wanted to spend Sundays with our families, because we have so many kids and they miss us," Ramsey said. "Plus our bodies aren't built like they used to be. So we're passing that second-line tradition on to younger bands. Like the older bands did for us."

The Stooges are a great New Orleans success story for sure. Couldn't find anything from today, but here they are on that Jam in the Van thing a few years ago doing Muses, Wind It Up, and True Stories.

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Laurie wsn't done. After a stop at the WWOZ tent, and on her way to meet me at the Fais Do Do stage, she stopped at the Kids Tent, a place that neither of us visits all that often, for obvious reasons. But Laurie does teach all ages music, and sometimes she get curious to see how others do that. 


In that tent was a flamenco music and dance troupe, Micaela y Fiesta FlamencaThe company, in residency with the New Orleans Dance Academy, promotes the art of flamenco, and offers programs and instruction in children's and adult flamenco. 

Micaela has more than 30 years of experience as a dancer, choreographer, and director. Here's a quick look at theis group, yet another example of the wide variety of artists available at Jazz Fest. Here they are in 2015 at the French Quarter Festival.

Where was I during all of this? True to form, I made a couple of quick stops at the Gospel Tent. The first performance I saw there was Isabel Davis, an up and coming singer born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, the second of four children. She grew up singing at the Christian World Worship Center in San Antonio, under the leadership of Pastor Michael and Rhonda Sides. It was there that she was given the opportunity and platform to develop her gift and ministry, and in 2006, she was elevated to the position of Worship Pastor.

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Isabel met Kenneth Davis, while serving at Christian World Worship Center and in 2010 Kenneth and Isabel married. They now reside in New Orleans with their three children. She is the Worship Pastor at The City of Love, under the Leadership of Bishop Lester Love and Pastor Fran Love (the same people I saw last Sunday).

You would scarcely find a friendlier or more affectionate and compassionate Ministry Leader than Isabel, who is always ready to provide the sincerest greeting, wrapped up in the warmest, most vigorous hug. "I know I'm called to help God's people through praise and worship," she says. "I'm passionate about introducing Jesus Christ to people through an encounter in His presence. I find fulfillment in seeing the people of God go to the next level or be refreshed because of a song or a word that He has given me for them."

Here's my video of this dynamic performance, and here is The Call from a studio recording.

A little later I caught some of the Landry Walker Charter High School Gospel Choir, performing for just the second time at Jazz Fest. Some schools have been there for years, like the McDonogh choir later today. The Landry Walker school is located in the Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans, across the river from most of the city. The choir is under the direction of Joseph Knox and was honored by Jazz Fest as the 2018 High School Gospel Choir of the Year.

Here's my video of this dynamic performance and here they are doing Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray at Dillard University.

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My main goal during this split was to see a great local modern jazz group, Pat Casey and the New Sound, in the Jazz Tent. I'd seen this group do a great show on Day 8 in 2015 and I was happy that the cubes gave me the opportunity to see them again. 

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This group, which appears every Sunday night at 10 p.m. at the Spotted Cat club on Frenchmen Street, has a somewhat malleable lineup. Today it was a seven-piece band, adding the great percussionist Bill Summers to its rhythm section and bringing on guest vocalist Robin Barnes for a smooth rendition of Herbie Hancock's classic Butterfly

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Casey plays electric bass, and the music is free-form with a lot of beat. It definitely had more of a New Orleans vibe. Originally from Denver, Casey has been in New Orleans for some 10 years and has become a big part of the local music scene. You are likely to see him with almost any local jazz band, from Bill Summers' Jazalsa to Alexey Marti to the Trumpet Mafia. He's not static by any means. He likes to pick up fresh ideas, leaving his sound one that can incorporate funk, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, jazz, and gospel. His music is insightful and captivating, and his creative energy is palpable.


Casey's bass and drummer Julian Addison's laidback drums anchored the set, allowing Oscar Rossignoli (keys), Ashlin Parker (trumpet), Khris Royal (sax) and Danny Abel (guitar) to take off to a higher plain. The best moment of the set came during its final song, when Casey, Parker, Abel, Royal and Rossignoli were in sync on an impossible-sounding lick to finish this great performance.

Here's some of this performance from my video, and here is a longer video from the Spotted Cat last year. 

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We met back at the Fais Do Do stage to catch the set by Bonsoir, Catin, a group from Lafayette that we caught on Day 10 in 2015, where you can read a lot more about them.  

It's often noted that this forward-thinking, Grammy-nominated Cajun ensemble has mostly female membership. And it does, with the only guys being drummer Danie Devillier and occasional keyboards by Eric Adcock from Roddie Romero's band. So there is a feminine aesthetic at work in details like the the band's harmonies, what's more compelling is the way they are taking Cajun music traditions and repurposing it into an ensemble-focused, highly lyrical sound. 

Kristi Guillory is a folklorist who specializes in the culture of Acadiana, but she's also an accordion prodigy and a poetic songwriter. The English translations of lyrics from the band's 2017 album "L'Aurore" are filled with gorgeous images and raw emotion. 

Guitarist Christine Balfa, the daughter of the late Cajun music revivalist Dewey Balfa, is the founder of Louisiana Folks Roots, a Lafayette-based nonprofit that produces educational and performance-related events aimed at sustaining the Louisiana's Cajun and Creole heritage. 


The other members are fiddler and violin maker Anya Burgess, guitarist Maegan Berard, and bassist Ashley Hayes. Bonsoir Catin's shows can lure you into a dreamy, pop-inflected soundscape one moment and then make you feel like you're waltzing at an old-school Mamou dancehall the next.

This was a really good performance, and because the crowd wasn't too bad we were right up front for it! Here's my video and here are 1, 2, 3, 4 from the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles last year in Lafayette.

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Now it was food time. We roamed around Food Area II for awhile before Laurie landed on a first: a platter with hummus, tabouli, a Greek garden salad, and pita bread from Mona's Café in New Orleans. 

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Mona's Middle Eastern Restaurant and International Market has been serving Mediterranean, particularly Lebanese, specialties for more than 20 years. The menu includes traditional hummus, cucumber salads, falafel, and much more. They have locations on Magazine Street, Frenchmen Street, and Banks Street in Mid-City


I opted for a repeat, the Yakiniku po'boy from Ninja Sushi Restaurant out of New Orleans. I've had this on Day 8 in 2014, Day 8 in 2015, and Day 3 in 2016, and Laurie's had their seaweed and cucumber salad as well, on Day 4 in 2015, Day 8 in 2016, and Day 8 last year. 

This fabulous cultural mashup has thinly sliced and sauteed ribeye, tender and splotched with a thin, salty sauce caramelized by the grill. This is pressed into into airy French bread with a squirt of mayo and sticks of vinegary (but not pickled) carrots and zucchini, and a bit of mozzarella cheese. It's unbelievably good.

Off we went in different directions again, Laurie to see Cyril Neville and his band, which he calls Swamp Funk, today joined by his son Omari and his band, The Fuel.

We have seen Cyril Neville with his own and so many other bands that to try to recount them all here would be impossible. You can read his story in the entry from Day 8 in 2015. He (still) has perhaps the best voice in New Orleans and when he sings, he sings with conviction. That's what his brother Aaron does, it's what Irma Thomas does, and Walter 'Wolfman' Washington, Erica Falls, Maggie Koerner, and Tab Benoit, too. It's a New Orleans thing. But Cyril Neville is the king of them all.

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Swamp Funk counts among its members his wife Gaynelle and his daughter Lyrica. And in case you are worried about the Neville legacy continuing beyond Omari, Lyrica and their cousins Charmaine, Ivan, and Ian, Cyril and Gaynelle alone have 17 grandchildren!

Omari has been playing drums since he was a child and has matured into one of the finest drummers in the New Orleans. He is, like his father, a formidable vocalist. The Fuel is an all-star aggregation that features two veterans of the definitive era of the Neville Brothers -- lead guitarist Eric Struthers and bassist Daryl Johnson. "Stormin'" Norman Caesar, a veteran of numerous Neville-related projects is on keyboards and Gregg Molinario is also on guitar. They create music that is inspired by the deep legacy of the Neville family, so New Orleans funk is ever-present. The band also explores pop, R&B, hip hop, and reggae including many Omari originals.

Together, these two bands created a mighty wall of funk. Here's a great story by Keith Spera in The Advocate about where Cyril is at as he reaches his 70th birthday. Here's a bit of the scene at Congo Square today, and here is some of Cyril's band doing Money and Oil and Big Chief Jolly last year at WWOZ, and to hear what the combined bands were like at Jazz Fest, check out these excerpts from Munck Music.

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Like this morning, Laurie went from Congo Square to the Acura stage, where Big Sam's Funky Nation was playing. We've seen this band a couple of times, at the Wolf Trap Swamp Romp in June 2012 and 2014, at the Barns of Wolf Trap in December 2012, and at Tipitina's Instruments-a-Comin' benefit on Day 5 in 2013. We've also seen Big Sam a number of times with the Midnite Disturbers and also with Elvis Costello at Jazz Fest, and probably other times as well, but have never seen the entire band at Jazz Fest, so this was a first, at least for one of us. 

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The band is "Big Sam" Williams on the trombone, Drew "Da Phessah" Baham on trumpet, Jerry "JBlakk" Henderson on bass, Keenan "Butta Cream" McRae on guitar, Alfred "Sgt. Gutta" Jordan on drums, and Kendrick Marshall on keys.

It’s rare in Jazz music to see a trombone player in the role of band leader. But Big Sam leads the Funky Nation on trombone with a commanding a charismatic presence. In the 6th grade, he was 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, too big for basketball he said. So he approached his school's band leader and asked him what instrument they needed someone to play. The answer was trombone. 

Not even knowing what a trombone was, Sam decided that's what he wanted to do. He became an accomplished musician, studying with educator and saxophonist Kidd Jordan and at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. In his teens, Big Sam was a founding member of the Stooges Brass Band (see above). However, he knew he wanted to play jazz, and he had one particular band in mind. 

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A few years later, at a friend's 16th birthday party, he was looking around the house and saw a lot of jazz recordings. He asked the birthday girl if those records were hers, thinking he had discovered one of his classmates shared the same love for jazz music that he did. As it would turn out, the situation was quite the contrary. They belonged to her father.

The girl introduced Sam to her father, who turned out to be the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's Gregory Davis, and he spent the rest of the party talking to him instead of any of his classmates. From that moment on, Sam set his sights on playing with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Sam played hard and practiced hard, that was readily apparent to all, and eventually his goal was reached. This was in 2000. Soon he was inspired to start his own group, and that resulted in the Funky Nation.

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In addition to Funky Nation, Big Sam has performed and toured with Karl Denson, Dave Matthews, Robert Randolph, and Widespread Panic. In 2006, he played with Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint on their grammy-nominated "River in Reverse" album and accompanied them on the subsequent international tour. He also had a recurring role in HBO's Treme series.

Big Sam is an entertainer who plays the music for himself. It makes him happy. Since he's happy, all he wants to do is share that happiness. He shares it by getting the audience involved. "I'm blessed to have the same kind of spirit guys like Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong," he says, and he isn't kidding.

He's got the chops of Louis, the charisma of Dizzy, the drive of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and the understanding that it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that funky thing. "I just perform the way I perform," he says.

We love Big Sam. You can't not dance when you hear him once you hear him rip a rocking solo on his slide trombone. Laurie stayed for the entire show and loved every second of it. Here's a full Big Sam and the Funky Nation show for your enjoyment.

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As for me, my first stop after our split was going to be the Blues Tent, but guess what? I was waylaid, this time by the Jazz and Heritage stage, where the outstanding master percussionist Seguenon Kone and his band Ivoire Spectacle were playing some drum-heavy West African dance music.

Kone is originally from the Ivory Coast. He is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, dancer, and choreographer who was playing music and performing around the world with the his country's National Ballet when he was 14. He formed his own dance company when he was 21. Taught by his father at a young age, he is a master of the balafon (an African xylophone) and the djembe drums. 

When he first relocated to the United States, Kone contracted to work five shows a day at Walt Disney World. After visiting New Orleans several times for drum and dance workshops, he decided New Orleans was the place to pursue a long-held idea to create a new kind of ensemble, one that would combine old and new musical influences. He moved to New Orleans in 20018, and that led to the West African drum and dance company, Ivoire Spectacle. 

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When asked why he chose New Orleans, he answers, "The music's everywhere. Every night. Oh my God, it's crazy. I've never seen so much music like that in all the world. Not like New Orleans."

Here is my video of the exciting performace. Here are one and two others that I could find from today, and here is a longer one from Jazz Fest in 2012.

At the Blues Tent, I got to see yet another great performance by slide guitar master John Mooney and his band Bluesiana (Alfred 'Uganda' Roberts on congas, Raymond Weber on drums, and Reneé Coman on bass).

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We've seen John Mooney any number of times at Jazz Fest and a couple of times at the Little Gem Saloon (see Day 2) with Marc Stone. He's one of the best guitarists around, and he writes great songs as well. You can read more about him in the reports from Day 2 in 2013 and Day 10 in 2017, and see and hear more in the reports from Day 2 this year, Day 2 and Day 4 in 2015, and Day 2 and Day 9 in 2016.

Here's my video from today, and you can get a feeling for the entire show from these Munck Music excerpts. 

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On my way over to Economy Hall, I caught a few minutes of the the McDonogh #35 High School Gospel Choir. The energy generated by this group gets fed right back to them by their schoolmates and the alumni who fill the audience. These friends and supporters know the songs and sing along. They're up on their feet clapping and dancing. 

"Our children are hams," says choir director Veronica Downs. "They're going to sing if there's two people, but when they see their peers they get a little more energy and especially if they see somebody they know. They love that. When you see the crowd participating, you know you're going to get some feedback from the choir."


Organized in the early 1970's, it was the first high school choir to perform at Jazz Fest and has appeared every year since its debut in 1979. It was also the first high school to institute a gospel choir. 

This school's Katrina story is typical. The choir's membership dropped from 80 to 50 for their first performance after the flood, in 2006, and that many only because they recruited students from around the city. They also invited former choir members to come back and sing with them. 

Downs had to rely on her can-do attitude to deal with all this. Located in the Seventh Ward, McDonogh #35 took on just several inches of water on the first floor, but the water sat, and the result was mold. The school's students had to use the top two floors after the building reopened in January following the September flood. The first-floor music room was destroyed, as well as the piano. Downs used a little electric keyboard and has even relied on a pitch pipe to conduct her classes.

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The determination to promote the resurrection of McDonogh 35 and its choir displayed by Downs came not only from her dedication as a teacher and musician, but also as an alumnus of the high school. 

"It's my school. I love my school," she says. Downs is also the music director of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church choir, piano accompanist for the New Orleans Black Chorale, and on the faculty of the Institute of Black Catholic Studies. She began playing piano at St. Monica's Catholic Church at age 14 and is considered as one of the pioneers in gospel in the Catholic Church. 

"In 2006 it was so important to minister to somebody because everybody was affected by the storm," Downs said. "Gospel music is so healing for the kids. When the children are happy, when the tent is rocking you just feel so good. It's a joy."

Here is my video of this wonderful group, and you can find a lot of music excerpts from Jazz Fest performances here, as they were recorded by the Munck Music people.

At Economy Hall, Preservation Hall's Brass Band, led today by the great Mark Braud, was performing. I have seen this band before, on Day 11 2014 and Day 9 in 2015. The members change from year to year, and It's a shame that I can't identify them, but the quality of the music is always fantastic and everybody has a great time. Here's my video from today's performance so you can see for yourself.

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My next stop was going to be the Jazz Tent, and on the way, as happened a lot today, was a stop at the Gospel Tent, where the Walls Group was performing. 

Counting Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia among their best-known fans, Houston-based siblings Darrel, Rhea, Alic (aka Paco) and Ahjah Walls have scored consistent gospel chart-topping hits since they began recording in 2013. 

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While their recorded sound draws heavily on contemporary R&B, including a high-gloss studio sound, the Walls' powerful individual voices really shine when they perform acoustically. Their set included both, although when I was there it was pretty mellow, with a reggae-like beat. Check it out here. If you are interested in more, check out their YouTube page.

At the Jazz Tent I was fortunate to see a spectacular modern jazz performce by Terrace Martin and his group of real heavy hitters: Prince collaborator-cum-Instagram's first celebrity bassist Mono-Neon (Dywane Thomas Jr.), former Snarky Puppy drummer and founder of Ghost-Note Robert "Sput" Searight, and James Francies, recent Blue Note signee and frequent keyboardist for The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

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Martin was introduced as one of the greatest creative young artists of our time, and that was no exxageration. 

Martin was born and raised in Los Angeles in the 1990's when West Coast hip-hop ruled radio, his father a jazz drummer and his mother a singer. At home he heard a broad range of music, ranging from John Coltrane to Parliament, and began playing the piano at age six. He produced his first tracks on a Casio CZ101 keyboard and an E-mu SP-1200 at 13. He was encouraged to take up the saxophone and learned to play it by himself before enrolling into Santa Monica High School to sharpen his musical skills. He attended band camps with future jazz heavyweights Robert Glasper and Keyon Harrold and transferred to Locke High School to study under Reggie Andrews, where he became first chair of the All-State Jazz Band. After high school, he attended CalArts but decided school wasn't for him and began touring with Puff Daddy and the gospel choir God's Property.

Ironically, it was rap music that led Martin and his contemporaries to fall in love with playing jazz. "If jazz hadn't come to me in the form of hip-hop, I wouldn't give a fuck," Martin stated. "I would not be playing jazz saxophone if I hadn't heard A Tribe Called Quest."


Martin discovered the melodic musings of Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, and Grover Washington Jr. through A Tribe's brilliant sampling. During a time when he was using drum machines and samplers, Martin had the epiphany of combining the two. Even back then, he understood the dichotomy better than most, choosing to fuse both rather than picking a side.

Martin's role models include Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Stitt, Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, Battlecat, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and 1580 K-Day. Martin has said, "I started producing hip-hop tracks because it's the music of my time, but I never lost my love for jazz."

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Martin was recognized by Hollywood and music industry elites and found favor in the jazz world, where he played as a member of Billy Higgins' World Stage All-Stars. His big break came when he produced a radio drop with Snoop Dogg. He scored a minor hit with 213's "Joystick" and went on to do more work with Snoop Dogg and produce recordings by Kendrick Lamar.  

Martin's self-produced 2010 debut album, "The Demo," featured him as a rapper. The album includes beats and guest verses from artists including Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Pete Rock, DJ Quik, and Kurupt.

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His selfless mindset is shared by fellow collaborators, Glasper, Hathaway, Kamasi Washington, and bassist Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner. All of them have contributed to his recordings. The chemistry between Martin, Washington, and Bruner was sparked before they ever picked up their instruments. "We were friends in the same neighborhood and went to the same high schools," said Martin.

The lifelong friendships with Washington and Thundercat -- then meeting Glasper and Hathaway at age 15 and 17 respectively -- crystallized the extra sensory perception they share when they are in the studio and on stage together. "Working on each other's albums is the easy part; it's the fun part and it's all beautiful," Martin exclaimed. "So, it all starts with with us being human beings and loving each other as human beings first. That's our bond."

Martin's multifaceted chops are being stretched to their limits thanks to his newest collaborator, Herbie Hancock (much more here). The piano legend has enlisted Martin to produce his next album. He has spent hours, jamming every day with Hancock for six months, building a connection that he hopes fuels an important piece of work worthy of Hancock's legacy. His cohorts Washington, Bruner, Hathaway are joining him on the project, and Martin has been taken aback by the 75-year-old Hancock's youthful exuberance and enthusiasm. "His ideas don't stop coming," Martin explains. "Usually, in most sessions, I have a lot of the ideas, more than others usually, because I'm a producer. Him, I still don't know how to produce him because every idea he comes up with is a perfect musical idea."

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Taking inspiration from Hancock, Lamar, Washington, Thundercat and other musical brethren and mentors, Martin is ready to pass the knowledge on to others. He is launching his own record label, Sounds of Crenshaw, which he hopes to be a destination for innovation and experimentation.

"One of my biggest things is if I want to inspire others, I have to learn how to have different outlets for things," explains Martin. "If YG wants to do an album with strings, he can come do it at Sounds of Crenshaw. If Ty Dolla $ign wants to do a Frank Sinatra-type big band album, he can come do it at Sounds of Crenshaw. Or if one of my jazz men wants to go all the way left and do some funk s**t, we can do that too. It's all about blending and cutting edges. We don't care about record sales; we just care about the art."

The set started with an instrumental version of For Free, from Lamar's seminal "To Pimp a Butterfly." Martin contributed thoughtful sax flourishes to the track, but mostly, he watched his arrangements unfold, letting his band do the heavy lifting. He played his rendition of Hancock's Butterfly, on which he sat at his Vocoder and keyboard harmonium setup to explore ethereal tones from outer space. These pieces were extended enough to let everyone contribute and were just fantastic.

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Before moving on to untitled 05, another Lamar track, Martin welcomed Nicholas Payton to the stage, explaining his admiration for the New Orleans trumpeter and recalling how he used to sneak into the Hollywood Bowl to watch him play. Payton fit in immediately, performing dazzling feats of dexterity on his horn but never hamming it up.

For his final track, Valdez Off Crenshaw, Maurice "Mobetta" Brown joined the group, adding a second trumpet to the mix. The track, Martin said, is a remix of Donny Hathaway's cover of Cold Blood's Valdez in the Country. (Here is Martin's version.) Its silky theme was the kind that could stick with you all day. It felt like the band was just beginning to hit its full stride as this song came to a close, but their hour was up. Not nearly enough time for an artist of this quality, Jazz Fest. 

Martin thanked the crowd and said he'd leave L.A. and move to New Orleans if he had his way. "But I can't," he said, shaking his head. "I love the smog and the traffic too much."

Fortunately Laurie showed up for the better part of this performance as well. She hates to sit at Jazz Fest, and for the most part so do I. That's why I hang out at the fringes of the tents mostly. Here is my video of this tremendous music. For some better quality recording, here is a full concert of Martin, Glasper, and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah in Europe this summer.

Laurie headed off to the WWOZ tent and then the Jazz and Heritage stage, where I would join her, but I wanted to catch at least some of the legendary Archie Shepp's performance first. While they were changing the stage, I went over to Food Area II to get a bowl of Wally Taillon's jambalaya, the one with pork and sausage. How good is that? I've had it before, on Day 4 way back in 2012 and Day 11 in 2016, and it holds it own. It should. After all, Taillon is President of the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival Association

The Archie Shepp Quartet closed out the Jazz Tent. In an earlier interview at the Allison Milner Music Heritage Stage, the octogenarian sax icon discussed his dislike for "jazz" as an umbrella term. "I prefer to call it African-American music," he said, adding "That doesn't mean only black people can play it." 

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Shepp is best known for his Afrocentric music of the late 1960's, a unique style of free-form avant-garde jazz blended with African rhythms, and for his collaborations with John Coltrane, Horace Parlan, Cecil Taylor, and the New York Contemporary Five ensemble. His long career as an educator has focused on ethnomusicology, looking at the history of African-American music from its origins in Africa to today.

He was born in Florida, but grew up in Philadelphia, studying piano, clarinet, and alto saxophone before switching to the tenor. He studied drama at Goddard College from 1955 to 1959, but chose music as his main profession. He played in a Latin jazz band for a short time before joining the band of avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor. His first recording under his own name was released in 1962. In a 1964 recording he took Coltrane's compositions into a more avant-garde direction that Coltrane himself would eventually follow.

Shepp's bands in the mid-1960’s featured Roswell Rudd, Bobby Hutcherson, Beaver Harris, and Grachan Moncur III, among others. He participated in the sessions for Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" in late 1964, but none of the takes he participated in were included on the final release (they are now on a reissue of the recording). However, he recorded "Ascension" with Coltrane in 1965, and his place alongside Coltrane at the forefront of the avant-garde jazz scene was epitomized when the pair split a live recording entitled "New Thing at Newport" released in late 1965.

Around this time, Shepp began looking to African cultural and music traditions for inspiration, as shown on such recordings as "The Magic of Ju-Ju" in 1967, a recording that featured an African percussion ensemble. This recording defined Shepp's sound for the next few years: free-form avant-garde saxophone lines coupled with rhythms and cultural concepts from Africa.

In 1971, Shepp joined the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, beginning a 30-year career as a professor of music. His first two courses were "Revolutionary Concepts in African-American Music" and "Black Musician in the Theater." He was also a professor of African-American Studies at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

Shepp's musical explorations included adding spoken word and poetry components to his albums. His 1972 albums had distinct political messages: "Attica Blues" was a response to prison riots and "The Cry of My People" addressed civil rights. In the late 1970's and beyond, his career went between various old territories and various new ones. He has continued to explore African music, but has almost entirely abandoned the avant-garde and soul-funk, choosing to concentrate on the blues, gospel, and tributes to more traditional jazz figures such as Charlie Parker and Sidney Bechet.

Shepp says, "Part of that had to do with discussions I had with people that were close to me, like my mother. My mother died rather early, when she was 50, but I remember one of my last conversations with her, where she asked me, 'Well, son, are you still playing those songs that don't have any tunes?' And I thought about that. Later, just after her funeral, I spoke with a friend of hers, and she looked at me with this sort of quizzical look and asked, 'When are you going to record something that I can understand?'

"I began to see and reflect that basically the audiences for this music were essentially white, middle-class audiences. That very few black people really listened to what I was doing. Even though I had a very strong blues background, I rarely played the blues, I didn't play standards or songs that might have appealed to them like the recordings of Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, or Lee Morgan. So at that point I began to think maybe I should include some of the experience of my youth. I'd played a lot of songs, ballads and so on, growing up in Philadelphia, and maybe I should begin playing some of this music that people could understand."

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At times, music of rare beauty resulted, as on "Goin' Home," an album of saxophone-piano duo versions of spirituals and gospel tunes recorded with Horace Parlan. "That is still one of my favorite recordings, because it really reaches deep inside, as far as my feelings," Shepp said. "I remember we did these spirituals, and somehow before we started to record, I felt full, as though I was going to cry, and I had to really get hold of myself. And I thought, well, if I'm truly too moved to make this recording, I'll never make the statement that this music requires. So I got myself together, and I think all of that feeling went into the recording, and when I listen to it, I'm very sensitive to what state of mind I was in when I did it, and I think a lot of it comes through in the music. Especially a song like My Lord, What a Morning."

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Recently Shepp has been releasing mostly live albums and collaborating with a broad range of American and European musicians.

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The set today was relatively straight forward. The quartet, which included Carl Henri Morisset on piano and Steve McCraven on drums (bass player unknown), played mostly standards, never venturing into Shepp's pioneering experiments in psychedelic improvisation. Shepp is 80 and looks it. His movements are slow and deliberate, and when he plays his tenor sax, it looks like he's using every muscle in his body. Still, his sound was superlative. His licks were soulful and clean, and when he stood up to sing the blues, his pitch-perfect voice rattled with the grit of someone who's seen it all.

Here is my video of today's third great set in the Jazz Tent. 

On my way over to meet Laurie, I got pulled into the Gospel Tent one last time, to hear some of the Ninevah Baptist Church Mass Choir from Metairie. I hesitate to say they were just another gospel choir, but there's no information to be found about them. They were awesome, though. The sound of these large choirs fills you with music. Check them out here.

I met Laurie at the Jazz and Heritage stage to close out the Jazz Fest portion of the day with the Caesar Brothers Funkbox.

Drummer Rickey and keyboardist Norman Caesar were born and raised in the notorious Uptown funk neighborhood of New Orleans. Related to the Neville family by marriage (Cyril’s wife Gaynielle is their aunt) they grew up in the 13th Ward on Valence and Chestnut Streets. That's deep in the heart of Neville territory..

Those musical roots -- the funk and Mardi Gras Indian rhythms -- run deep in their sound, whether they are leading the Funk Box or backing one of many New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian chiefs they perform with. "The rhythms just stuck with us," Norman says.

"I used to play the keys on a clothes hamper when I was about four years old," Norman remembers with a laugh. "That was my imaginary keyboard when Rickey used to play drums."

Since the two are so close in age -- Rickey is 44 and Norman 43 -- their experiences both in life and music traveled a similar course. They attended the same high school, Walter L. Cohen, and both participated in the marching band, with Rickey blowing baritone horn and tuba and Norman on baritone horn and trombone.

Vocalists are also a strong tradition in the 13th Ward and the Caesar brothers are no exception. "We always sang in the church choir. My grandmother, Thelma Housey, was a very excellent gospel singer," says Rickey. "She was our biggest influence. Singing was always in our blood in our family." On the paternal side, their father, Julius Caesar III, was a cousin of Barbara and Rosa Lee Hawkins of the renowned Dixie Cups.

"We grew up in the church," Norman says. "But we were around the Nevilles coming up and also the band the Louisiana Purchase with Terry and Phillip Manuel, who were singers in our neighborhood."

When the brothers were in their pre-teens, they began playing with their older cousin, trombonist Emanuel Steib. "We really embraced his music and started firing up horns behind him," Rickey says, adding that both he and Steib also became involved with the dawning of the Soul Rebels brass band.

The year 1988 marked the beginning of the group Deff Generation, which teamed the brothers and Steib with a bunch of Neville cousins -- Aaron Neville Jr., Cyril Neville Jr., Damion Neville, Jason Neville, and Omari Neville. It was with that band that they gained further recognition, particularly with the release of Running with the Second Line, considered by many as the first recording merging brass band music and hip-hop. In the group, the brothers double on instruments with Rickey on drums, percussion, and tuba and Norman playing keyboards and trombone. "We switched off because we were like a brass band inside of a band," Norman explains.

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Rickey and Norman Caesar as the Caesar Brothers kicked in at the now legendary Benny's Bar, the Uptown place to go late nights following hot gigs at Tipitina's. They were also often called on to put their funky touch behind numerous groups, including Cyril Neville and some bounce grops. One of their specialties remains backing various Mardi Gras Indian chiefs.

"We've followed the Indians all our lives," Rickey says. "Our first group of Indians was the Wild Tchoupitoulas when we were like three and four years old."

"I can remember when I was small going by Cyril's house and Jolly (George Landry, Big Chief Jolly of the Wild Tchoupitoulas) used to be in there working on his suits and playing the piano," Norman recalls. "That's really how I got into playing the piano, watching Jolly -- he was a really good piano player."

"We're one of the main bands on the scene with the Indians," Rickey says, naming early gigs with Indian gangs like the Wild Magnolias and June Victory and the Bayou Renegades. Nowadays, they lay down their funky rhythms and harmonies with chiefs like Juan Pardo of the Golden Comanche and Kevin Goodman of the Flaming Arrows.

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Through much of their career, the Caesars have backed or recorded with a variety of artists including Cyril Neville, the Neville Brothers, and funkmaster George Clinton. Throughout it all, they have regularly gigged as leaders. The Funk Box's latest release, "In a Place Called New Orleans," is filled with New Orleans material and guests like Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and saxophonist Tim Green, who played with them regularly until his passing in 2014.

"We want everybody to know that we strive to keep New Orleans music alive," says Rickey, adding that along with originals they perform classics such as the Meters' Love Slip Up on Ya and the Huey "Piano" Smith hit Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.

"You can't forget Huey," Norman enthusiastically says. "We play New Orleans music the way it should be played. The Funk Box is like putting a quarter in the jukebox at one of these funky joints in New Orleans that you never heard of and the Caesars will be playin’ it."

The family connection was on display today with the appearance of Cyril Neville for a song, and the Mardi Gras Indian connection was on display with pretty much the entire band of Big Chief Juan and Jockimo's Groove. Adding to the groove were the percussionists from the Ivoire Spectacle that were on the Jazz and Heritage stage earlier today.

It was one incredibly funky mashup. Here is my video that lets you in on it, and here is a full performance from a couple of years ago at the Blue Nile club (without Mardi Gras Indians).

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Tonight we ate leftovers for dinner and then walked over to Frenchmen Street for a the late show at the Snug Harbor jazz club. There, we spent yet another great couple of hours with the legendary mad scientist of the Hammond B-3, Dr. Lonnie Smith, along with the great Donald Harrison Jr. on sax, the great Detroit Brooks on guitar, and the great Herlin Riley on drums. 

We've seen Harrison and Brooks with Dr. Lonnie Smith before, but it's the first time Herlin Riley has been with them (he was with Dr. Lonnie, Harrison, and a couple of others at the Blue Nile back in 2013). He's masterful on the drums.

Sublime may be the best way to describe Smith on the B-3, although his emotions are displayed in full range on stage. Sometimes he'll laugh to himself, as though even he didn't exect what he just did. Nothing about his furrowed brow or periodic scats and shouts as he weaves a melody or lays out a nasty bass line feels artificial. The music is a mix of jazz, funk, and blues with a dash of soul, and it is just incredible to experience it. 

The supporting cast was on point, too. Harrison has worked with Smith often enough to know exactly when to take over and for how long. It's almost telepathic. Riley is really creative on the drums, at one point making use of the pipes next to his drum kit on the stage, perfect for Smith's unpredictable playing. And you almost don't notice the laid-back precision of Brooks -- until you do and you are astonished by it, which we were any number of times because he was sitting right in front of us. 


It is a privilege to see and hear veteran musicians like this play, especially up close and personal as it is in Snug Harbor, where you can interact with the artists and be able to personally thank them after the show. There's no backstage at the Snug, the only way for the artists to leave is the same way the audience does.

Snug Harbor requests no photos or videos, and when so requested I oblige. If you want, you can watch the performance from the bar on their in-house TV feed -- for free. (That's what's in the photo below.) What a treasure trove of great jazz it would be if they saved all of their performances on video. Instead, here's some Dr. Lonnie, though, because you can never get enough of his great music. For more on him, with a lot more music, check out Day 6 in 2013, Day 8 in 2014, and Day 6 in 2015.

A late evening, or should I say early morning, walk back to the Staybridge along a still bustling, although not with tourists, Decatur Street ended our day. 



© Jeff Mangold 2012